Head on over to Information Today and check out part one of my new series for their publication, titled Tales From The Library Trenches. I’m really jazzed to have a feature with Information Today…they’re a cool publication and they’ve been really wonderful to work with. I’m also really happy they’ve put this feature up on their site for everyone to read free of charge. That’s so very kind of them to do!
I’m really happy to be writing a four part series for Information Today titled Tales From The Library Trenches. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing stories and ideas about movin’ on up in the library world and becoming a director. I also got a chance to talk to some great folks along the way (Laura Koenig, Kenley Neufeld, and Jack Martin to name a few) and hear their amazing stories as well. I hope y’all get to check it out and enjoy it.
If you haven’t already, you should head over to InfoToday.com and take a look at some of the great stuff they’re sharing.
Like a computer our brains need to be restarted every once in awhile. Events and shifts over the last few years of my life have made me realize this. I no longer work to only serve kids, tweens, and teens. I no longer live in an urban area. I no longer live in a world which I fully understand. My life these days is very different than what it used to be, and with that I feel the need to reset myself. This post is an attempt to put this reset into practice using words to coalesce my thoughts into one coherent belief that moves me forward in my work as a librarian.
I believe that a strong part of the future of public libraries will be in focusing our efforts and services on a hyperlocal level. This differentiates from where I believe public libraries are focusing their efforts now, which is looking outwards towards everyone else in the profession to see what they are doing before acting themselves. No more is this apparent to me than the recent effort for public libraries to shift a lot of focus towards STEM/STEAM/Makerspace/Coding efforts. Please do not get me wrong: I believe in teaching and exposing citizens to things such as these, yet at the same time I do not believe in a one size fits all solution that can be applied to every public library. This is the case here, as it was with eBooks and any other “trends” in recent history.
The idea that we should be focusing our efforts and services on a hyperlocal level instead of looking outwards towards everyone else in the profession is doing became clear to me when I was completing a survey sent to me by our State Library. In that survey, participants were asked about STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and nothing else. I understand that the point of the survey was to better understand the libraries in my state, but while reading it I thought of the following scenarios as I imagined another librarian in my state reading the email:
The State Library is focused on STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and we’re not doing this at all so we must be very behind.
The State Library created a survey about this, so it must be very important and I must get behind this trend even though I do not know if it is right for my community.
I need to learn more about all things related to STEM/STEAM/Makerspace in public libraries and if I do not I risk losing patrons and support.
I understand that not everyone will follow one of the paths that I laid out above, but many will. Human beings are creatures of habit and enjoy following the leader. There is probably something embedded into our DNA that makes us this way.
The problem with following the hype and trend of the moment is that it is usually fixated on something that worked well for one particular library and that it does not translate well to other libraries. When I lived in Portland, ME I felt like my library was focused on what happened everywhere else and the idea that “if they’re doing, we should be heading that way too.” In reality, Portland was its own very unique community that needed a specific set of programs and services. A huge part of why I moved to the Chattanooga Public Library in 2013 was because they were looking (and still do) at their programs and services on a hyperlocal level. Programs like DEV DEV, The 4th Floor, Makeanooga, and many more worked and continue to work because they are programs for that community, not programs that were copied/pasted from what someone else in public libraries was doing.
Why are we at where we are now? I believe that social media, large organizations, and large publications have led the charge towards public libraries focusing outwards towards everyone else in the profession instead of inspiring those in the profession to think for themselves and focus inward on their communities. A culture of “here’s how to be successful with your public library in 5 easy steps” combined with ego boosting catchphrases like “rock star librarian” have not helped us but instead presented public libraries with the path of least resistance.
How do we change the conversation?
We need more public librarians out there willing to share their stories about how their focus on a hyperlocal level is benefiting their public library and their community. To start, I recommend following the work of librarians and libraries in New Zealand and Australia. You can do that by starting here with this Twitter list that I have compiled. The work done by the people and organizations is focused, inspiring, and uplifting.
Share through any platform that you feel comfortable with. I personally would like to see an increase in public librarians writing more and maintaining their own blogs or Medium profiles
Remind each other that our communities come before everything and to keep the message positive. Support and reminders from other public librarians is one way that we can spread the message that we need to focus our work locally.
Ditch the hype. Don’t copy and paste. Focus on your Community. This is what I believe to be the path forward.
EXPAND OUR LOCAL HISTORY/GENEALOGY OFFERINGS Titusville, PA has a wonderful and rich history (for a glimpse of it, just read this). As our local public library, I believe that we should be doing as much as possible to make that history accessible to our everyone in the community. To date, we’ve done a few things to increase awareness of our great history. Jess Hilburn started up a blog to share some great local stories she digs up in the Titusville Herald Archives. We’ve got the Titusville Herald archive online for in library use. But in my opinion we’ve got to do more, and slowly but surely we are getting there.
A partnership between the library, the Titusville Historical Society, Drake Well Museum and Park, and the Titusville Alumni Association came about in 2016 and resulted in the beginnings of the Titusville PA Heritage Connection, a website/digital portal that aims to bring all of our organizations together in one online space to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. While the site isn’t anywhere near complete, the fact that we have it up and the framework is there is a step in the right direction. A big thank you to our Clarion University of PA intern Kerry Neely for her help in getting this set up!
Since moving to Titusville, PA, I’ve been wishing we’ve had that kind of thing to spur some excitement. Our internet options here in town are lacking, and the ones we can connect to have average to terrible service. HOWEVER, I hope to change that in 2017. To my excitement, I discovered that the town does have fiber internet lines in a few places. After some conversations with people around the community and others in the state, I found out that THERE’S FIBER LINES SURROUNDING THE ENTIRE BENSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY. Here’s a beautiful image of that fiber line coming right down in front of the library and turning right down our alley. Wow.
In 2017, I’m gonna do my best to get us connected to these fiber lines so that in the future we can offer better internet access to our patrons. I don’t know how this will look, I don’t know how much this will cost, and I don’t know if I’ll fully succeed, but I’m going to try. As far as I know, we’d be the second institution in Titusville to access this connection (the University of Pitt at Titusville is the first) and the first public space to offer high internet speeds. Like I said above, we’ll see, but for now I’m gonna dream big and try out something that’s potentially huge for our community.
PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS
One of the big things that libraries do best these days is to offer educational and fun programs for all ages. In 2016, we’re going to have offered 320 programs that were attended by over 8,000 community members. That’s not bad for a public library that has a service area of around 14,000 people.
2017 is gonna bring a lot more of that and hopefully in larger numbers. I can’t and won’t take my foot off of the gas pedal when it comes to programming in libraries. We have to constantly be offering something to our community members. Programs are unique to libraries and something that we do very well. Story times and after school clubs work best for our younger audience, while nighttime events and musical performances work well for our adult and senior citizen crowd. We plan on having more of those throughout the year.
DO MORE TO ESTABLISH THE LIBRARY AS A COMMUNITY SPACE One of the best things public libraries have going for their is their space. Most, if not all of us, have amazing buildings in centrally located areas. These buildings are one of our biggest assets. They do some of the simplest things that a library can do: provide space, warmth, comfort, and adventure. I’ve been thinking and speaking about this idea for a few years, and in 2017 I hope to do more to make that idea more cohesive and understandable to everyone out there.
STAY POSITIVE No matter what we face directly in front of us in 2017, we have to remember that there is love and support all around us. Take a look around at your online social networks, groups like EveryLibrary, and your local community organizations that support the library. Take a moment and look at the community members you serve on a daily basis at your library. All of these groups and all of these people believe in the work that you do. I’m going to do my best to keep that up front in my head and my heart in 2017. I urge you all to do the same.
I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about library related things in my world recently because…well…when I look at the other stuff being written about libraries out there it hits me that what we’re doing here in Titusville PA may not just be of much interest to people in libraries these days. While other libraries out there are talking about makerspaces, open data, hackathons, social justice, and more, we’re here focusing on the simple things: opening our doors, welcoming the community into our space, and doing what we can do to make life in our little neck of the woods just a bit more enjoyable for everyone.
We hosted the local Chamber of Commerce event “Home For The Holidays” in our Community Room. It brought community members and local artists and vendors together and hopefully some folks got some neat local holiday gifts for their family and friends.
We decorated the inside and outside of our space for the holidays. Just a few little decorations can really brighten up the mood and add to the positive spirit that goes around this time of year. It makes me smile.
It snowed! The steps that we restored over the summer are holding up nicely in the late fall/early winter weather and we do our best to clean them off and take care of them so that our community doesn’t get injured as they come and go from the library.
We hired Becky Stahl to be our new Youth Services Librarian at the Benson Memorial Library. She’s awesome, a lot of fun, and very kind and I appreciate that. My sons Finn and Aero love her craft and tech programs.
Guardian Elder Care in Titusville, PA helped us fund our front step renovation project. To celebrate the event, we held an outdoor live music event which was attended by over 20 community members. There was free food! That was awesome.
My first speaking event of the Fall was for the Pioneer Library System in Canandaigua, NY. What a great library system full of very kind people. I was very impressed by who attended the event…it wasn’t just librarians but there were trustees, Friends of the library, and state legislators in the audience. It was great to share and chat with everyone.
My final speaking event was in November at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library in New York. What a great library! It reminded me a bit of the Darien Public Library in how the building was laid out, which was extremely customer friendly and welcoming. The staff at the library was so very kind as well, and before and after the event I always felt like I was part of the staff and had worked there for at least 10 years. That’s the best!
Happy this time of year to everyone out there from the Hoenke Family. We love you all. We’re gonna watch a lot of holiday movies and listen to the same holiday music we listen to every year and just enjoy the hell out of our family and friends. This is the best time of year. Love love love love love.
This tweet is 100% the truth. How someone couldn’t get excited about taking care of a historic, much loved building and institution in the community is beyond. We work in libraries, and our job is to share and connect with our communities. Life is good.
Work can be tough and stressful at times, but it doesn’t have to be a horrible thing. Projects and programs will take up a lot of our physical and mental energy, but they do not have to destroy us. Reframe those negative thoughts and put them in a positive light. REMEMBER! You are doing great work to help your community. Kindness and compassion win over everything else in this world.